“You know,’ the Doctor said, resuming his pacing, ‘how sometimes you only appreciate something when it is taken away from you?’
‘You mean my freedom?’
‘I mean more like the hum of the central heating or the air-conditioning. You only notice it was there when it stops. While it’s constant, part of the nature of the things, it’s unremarkable. Just the way things are. Your brain doesn’t even bother to tell you about it, unless there is a change that might be important.”
Books! People never really stop loving books. And Doctor Who has a pretty longstanding tradition with books – from Target Novels to the books that kept the show alive during the ‘wilderness era’. So why should this new Doctor be any different?
Across the 13 weeks Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor, there were 6 novels written featuring the Ninth Doctor… So, as part of this Ninth Doctor lookback, I’ll also be attempting to review each of them.
The first then is Justin Richards‘ The Clockwise Man…
Justin Richards is, I think it’s rather fair to say, something of a prolific Doctor Who writer. Lots and lots of novels. And all of them pretty good I think. I like his novels.
And this is another really good one! As a Doctor Who novel should, it does something that you couldn’t really get away with on television. It’s a lot more measured in pace, rather more akin to a 90-minute movie than the 45-minute episodes we get. What that means is that you can build up the intrigue, and draw things out a little – not so much so that the reader gets bored, but enough for Richards to set up a few plot twists, and make sure nothing finishes too quickly.
The plot is fantastic. There’s a great setting, and it’s got some really interesting ideas at its heart; revolutionaries of all races. Actually, ‘revolutions’ seems to be a rather present theme at all times – Bolshevik revolutions, the conspiracy plotted in Sir George’s House, Shade Vassily’s plans, and, of course, the revolutions of the clock. That’s really clever actually. (And, obviously, any mentions of Russia and the Bolsheviks earn points in my book.) The prose too is really evocative, and it paints a great picture of 1920s London; with every word, you really are there. It’s very well written stuff.
(Also, there’s a lot of weird similarities to The Girl in the Fireplace, at least in regards to the monsters. There’s even the same ticking motif, with similar “There’s no clock in here” reveals. Odd, that.)
The Doctor and Rose are characterised really well – which is pretty impressive, because I don’t think there would have been much more than the scripts when this book would have been written? There’s lots of little moments where you can really picture Chris Eccleston’s hard stare as he thinks about the Time War. There’s a lot of that, and it’s really well done.
The other supporting characters are great too; I particularly liked Aske and Repple, for all their weird dual identity subplots. Very well done.
So, in all, a great book. At 300ish pages, it’s not going to take you too long to read, and I’d definitely recommend it.